I’ve just been emailed the column that Los Angeles Times Hollywood writer Patrick Goldstein wrote for today. But it didn’t run. The paper killed it — actually John Montorio, newly promoted from associate editor to managing editor for features, axed it — then offered the lame excuse that Goldstein was on assignment.
UPDATE: Patrick Goldstein just gave me a statement: “Obviously no columnist is ever very happy about having their column killed. But I’m much more disappointed that the column that was killed was full of ideas about how to help my newspaper. I love working at a newspaper, especially this one, but if we don’t start embracing change in a big way, there won’t be great jobs like the one I have much longer. I’m constantly writing about how all the studios and big media companies are radically reinventing themselves. It’s time we did the same.”
Also, the Times announced today that Montorio was named managing editor for features while John Arthur, presently the paper’s page one editor, will be managing editor for news. I don’t get it: didn’t anyone inform Times editor in chief Jim O’Shea that Montorio is really hated by almost all the Calendar staff? Or is that a prerequisite?
Goldstein argued in favor of the Times aping that British newspaper stunt distributing free Prince Planet Earth CDs and start partnering with other rock stars to give away music. “It’s time we embraced change instead of always worrying if some brash new idea — like giving away music — would tarnish our sober minded image. When businesses are faced with radical change, they are usually forced to ask — is it a threat or an opportunity? Guess which choice is the right answer.” Yes, the music industry hated the Mail On Sunday‘s publicity stunt. But why in the world Times management found Goldstein’s column so subversive escapes me, especially since his is an informed opinion since he used to be one of the Times‘ top rock writers before moving to the movie biz. Besides, the paper has plenty of places to present the other side. “It was all Montorio,” an LATer tells me. “Patrick’s editors didn’t have a problem with the column. Everyone was surprised, shocked, stunned. The theory is that Montorio has a very low opinion of all suggestions how to reinvent the Times, much less from a columnist.”
More to the point, the Times should be working harder to keep talents like Goldstein, who is the best thing about its Hollywood coverage, not stifling them. My sources inside the paper told me not long ago that management was trying to push Goldstein to write more frequent and shorter pieces rather than his thoughtful once a week long forms, and he resisted understandably. My view is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Now there’s this morale killer aimed at a staffer who has repeatedly demonstrated his loyalty to the Times by turning down many jobs from rival newspapers and magazines over the decades. All I can say is, can you imagine what the Times would do if Goldstein tackled a really burning media issue — like why the studios barely advertise in newsosaurs anymore?